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or care. Only deep and sincere attachment holds her at last to the
man she has chosen, and she then follows his wishes in matters of
fidelity, though still to a large extent remaining mistress of

The Marquesan woman, however, often denies her husband the freedom
she herself openly enjoys. This custom persists as a striking
survival of polyandry, in which fidelity under pain of dismissal
from the roof-tree was imposed by the wife on all who shared her

This was exactly the status of a household not far from my cabin.
Haabuani, master of ceremonies at the dances, the best carver and
drum-beater of all Atuona, who was of pure Marquesan blood, but
spoke French fluently and earnestly defended the doctrine of the
Pope's infallibility, - even coming to actual blows with a defiant
Protestant upon my very _paepae_ - explained his attitude.

"If I have a friend and he temporarily desires my wife, Toho, I am
glad if she is willing. But my enemy shall not have that privilege
with my consent. I would be glad to have you look upon her with favor.
You are kind to me. You have treated me as a chief and you have
bought my _kava_ bowl. But, _écoutez, Monsieur_, Toho does what she
pleases, yet if I toss but a pebble in another pool she is furious.
See, I have the bruises still of her beating."

With a tearful whine he showed the black-and-blue imprints of Toho's
anger, and made it known to us that the three _piastres_ he had of
me for the _kava_ bowl had been traced by his wife to the till of Le
Brunnec's store, where Flower, the daughter of Lam Kai Oo, had spent
them for ribbons. Toho in her fury had beaten him so that for a day
and a night he lay groaning upon the mats.

"That is as it should be," said Malicious Gossip, sternly, while her
curving lips set in straight lines. Sex morality means conformity to
sex _tapus_, the world over.

Free polyandry still exists in many countries I have seen, and in
others its dying out leaves these fragmentary survivals. I have
visited the tribe of Subanos, in the west and north of the island of
Mindanao in the Philippine archipelago, where the rich men are
polygamists, and the poor still submit to polyandry. Economic
conditions there bring about the same relations, under a different
guise, as in Europe or America, where wealthy rakes keep up several
establishments, and many wage-earners support but one prostitute.

Polyandry is found almost exclusively in poor countries, where there
is always a scarcity of females. Thus we have polyandry founded on a
surplus of males caused by poverty of sustenance. The female is, in
fact, supposed to be the result of a surplus of nutrition; more boys
than girls are born in the country districts because the city diet
is richer, especially in meat and sugar. It is notable that the
families of the pioneers of western America bore a surprising
majority of males.

In the Marquesas, where living was always difficult and the diet poor,
there were always more men than women despite the frequent wars in
which men were victims. Another reason was that male children were
saved often when females were killed in the practice of infanticide,
also forced by famine. The overplus of men made them amenable to the
commands of the women, who often dominated in permanent alliances,
demanding lavishment of wealth and attention from their husbands.

Yet - and this is a most significant fact - the father-right in the
child remained the basis of the social system.

Throughout all Australia, Melanesia, and Papuasis on the east, and
America on the west, the mother-right prevailed among primitive
peoples. Children followed the mother, took their name from her, and
inherited property through her. I have known a Hawaiian nobleman who,
commenting on this fact, said that the system had merit in that no
child could be called a bastard, and that the woman, who suffered
most, was rewarded by pride of posterity. He himself, he said, was
the son of a chieftess, but his father, a king, was the son of a
negro cobbler.

The father-right, so familiar to our minds that it seems to-day
almost the only natural or existing social system, was in fact
developed very lately among all races except the Caucasian and some
tribes of the Mongols. Yet in the Marquesas, these islands cut off
from all other peoples through ages of history, the father-right
prevailed in spite of all the difficulties that attended its
survival in polyandry.

Each woman had many husbands, whom she ruled. The true paternity of
her children it was impossible to ascertain. Yet so tenaciously did
the Marquesans cling to the father-right in the child, that even
this fact could not break it down. One husband was legally the
father of all her children, ostensibly at least the owner of the
household and of such small personal property as belonged to it
under communism. The man remained, though in name only, the head of
the polyandrous family.

I seemed to see in this curious fact another proof of the ancient
kinship between the first men of my own race and the prehistoric
grandfathers of Malicious Gossip and Haabunai. My savage friends,
with their clear features, their large straight eyes and olive skins,
showed still the traces of their Caucasian blood. Their forefathers
and mine may have hunted the great winged lizards together through
primeval wildernesses, until, driven by who knows what urge of
wanderlust or necessity, certain tribes set out in that drive
through Europe and Asia toward America that ended at last, when a
continent sunk beneath their feet, on these islands in the southern

It was a far flight for fancy to take, from my _paepae_ in the
jungle at the foot of Temetiu, but looking at the beauty and grace
of Malicious Gossip as she sat on my mats in her crimson _pareu_, I
liked to think that it was so.

"We are cousins," I said to her, handing her a freshly-opened
cocoanut which Exploding Eggs brought.

"You are a great chief, but we love you as a blood-brother," she
answered gravely, and lifted the shell bowl to her lips.


Filling the _popoi_ pits in the season of the breadfruit; legend of
the _mei_; the secret festival in a hidden valley.

On the road to the beach one morning I came upon Great Fern, my
landlord. Garbed in brilliant yellow _pareu_, he bore on his
shoulders an immense _kooka_, or basket of cocoanut fiber, filled
with quite two hundred pounds of breadfruit. The superb muscles
stood out on his perfect body, wet with perspiration as though he
had come from the river.

"Kaoha, Great Fern!" I said. "Where do you go with the _mei_?"

"It is _Meinui_, the season of the breadfruit," he replied.
"We fill the _popoi_ pit beside my house."

There is a word on the Marquesan tongue vividly picturing the
terrors of famine. It means, "one who is burned to drive away a
drought." In these islands cut off from the world the very life of
the people depends on the grace of rain. Though the skies had been
kind for several years, not a day passing without a gentle downpour,
there had been in the past dry periods when even the hardiest
vegetation all but perished. So it came about that the Marquesan was
obliged to improvise a method of keeping breadfruit for a long time,
and becoming habituated to sour food he learned to like it, as many
Americans relish ill-smelling cheese and fish and meat, or drink
with pleasure absinthe, bitters, and other gagging beverages.

In this season of plenteous breadfruit, therefore, Great Fern had
opened his _popoi_ pit, and was replenishing its supply. A
half-dozen who ate from it were helping him. Only the enthusiasm of
the traveler for a strange sight held me within radius of its odor.

It was sunk in the earth, four feet deep and perhaps five in diameter,
and was only a dozen years old, which made it a comparatively small
and recently acquired household possession in the eyes of my savage
friends. Mouth of God and Malicious Gossip owned a _popoi_ pit dug
by his grandfather, who was eaten by the men of Taaoa, and near the
house of Vaikehu, a descendant of the only Marquesan queen, there
was a _uuama tehito_, or ancient hole, the origin of which was lost
in the dimness of centuries. It was fifty feet long and said to be
even deeper, though no living Marquesan had ever tasted its stores,
or never would unless dire famine compelled. It was _tapu_ to the
memory of the dead.

All over the valley the filling of the pits for reserve against need
was in progress. Up and down the trails the men were hastening,
bearing the _kookas_ filled with the ripe fruit, large as Edam
cheeses and pitted on the surface like a golf-ball. A breadfruit
weighs from two to eight pounds, and giants like Great Fern or
Haabuani carried in the _kookas_ two or three hundred pounds for
miles on the steep and rocky trails.

In the banana-groves or among thickets of _ti_ the women were
gathering leaves for lining and covering the pits, while around the
center of interest naked children ran about, hindering and thinking
they were helping, after the manner of children in all lands when
future feasts are in preparation.

There was a time when each grove of breadfruit had its owners, who
guarded it for their own use, and even each tree had its allotted
proprietor, or perhaps several. Density of population everywhere
causes each mouthful of food to be counted. I have known in Ceylon an
English judge who was called upon to decide the legal ownership of
one 2520th part of ten cocoanut-trees. But my friends who were
filling the _popoi_ pits now might gather from any tree they pleased.
There was plenty of breadfruit now that there were few people.

Great Fern was culling from a grove on the mountain-side above my
house. Taking his stand beneath one of the stately trees whose
freakish branches and large, glossy, dark-green leaves spread
perhaps ninety feet above his head, he reached the nearer boughs with
an _omei_, a very long stick with a forked end to which was attached
a small net of cocoanut fiber. Deftly twisting a fruit from its stem
by a dexterous jerk of the cleft tip, he caught it in the net, and
lowered it to the _kooka_ on the ground by his side.

When the best of the fruit within reach was gathered, he climbed the
tree, carrying the _omei_. Each brown toe clasped the boughs like a
finger, nimble and independent of its fellows through long use in
grasping limbs and rocks. This is remarkable of the Marquesans; each
toe in the old and industrious is often separated a half inch from
the others, and I have seen the big toe opposed from the other four
like a thumb. My neighbors picked up small things easily with their
toes, and bent them back out of sight, like a fist, when squatting.

Gripping a branch firmly with these hand-like feet, Great Fern
wielded the _omei_, bringing down other breadfruit one by one,
taking great care not to bruise them. The cocoanut one may throw
eighty feet, with a twisting motion that lands it upon one end so
that it does not break. But the _mei_ is delicate, and spoils if
roughly handled.

Working in this fashion, Great Fern and his neighbors carried down
to the _popoi_ pit perhaps four hundred breadfruit daily, piling
them there to be prepared by the women. Apporo and her companions
busied themselves in piercing each fruit with a sharp stick and
spreading them on the ground to ferment over night.

In the morning, squatted on their haunches and chanting as they
worked, the women scraped the rind from the fermented _mei_ with
cowry shells, and grated the fruit into the pit which they had lined
with banana leaves. From time to time they stood in the pit and
tramped down the mass of pulp, or thumped it with wooden clubs.

For two weeks or more the work continued. In the ancient days much
ceremoniousness attended this provision against future famine, but
to-day in Atuona only one rule was observed, that forbidding sexual
intercourse by those engaged in filling the pits.

"To break that _tapu_," said Great Fern, "would mean sickness and
disaster. Any one who ate such _popoi_ would vomit. The forbidden
food cannot be retained by the stomach."

To vomit during the fortnight occupied in the task of conserving the
breadfruit brought grave suspicion that the unfortunate had broken
the _tapu_. When their own savage laws governed them, that unhappy
person often died from fear of discovery and the wrath of the gods.
To guard against such a fate those who were not strong and well took
no part in the task.

This curious connection between sex and the preparation of food
applied in many other cases. A woman making oil from dried cocoanuts
was _tapu_ as to sexual relations for four or five days, and
believed that if did she sin, her labor would produce no oil. A man
cooking in an oven at night obeyed the same _tapu_. I do not know,
and was unable to discover, the origin of these prohibitions. Like
many of our own customs, it has been lost in the mist of ages.

A Tahitian legend of the origin of the breadfruit recounts that in
ancient times the people subsisted on _araea_, red earth. A couple
had a sickly son, their only child, who day by day slowly grew
weaker on the diet of earth, until the father begged the gods to
accept him as an offering and let him become food for the boy. From
the darkness of the temple the gods at last spoke to him, granting
his prayer. He returned to his wife and prepared for death,
instructing her to bury his head, heart and stomach at different
spots in the forest.

"When you shall hear in the night a sound like that of a leaf, then
of a flower, afterward of an unripe fruit, and then of a ripe, round
fruit falling on the ground, know that it is I who am become food
for our son," he said, and died.

She obeyed him, and on the second night she heard the sounds. In the
morning she and her son found a huge and wonderful tree where the
stomach had been buried. The Tahitians believe that the cocoanut,
chestnut, and yam miraculously grew from other parts of a man's

Breadfruit, according to Percy Smith, was brought into these islands
from Java by the ancestors of the Polynesians, who left India
several centuries before Christ. They had come to Indonesia
rice-eaters, but there found the breadfruit, "which they took with
them in their great migration into these Pacific islands two
centuries and more after the beginning of this era."

Smith finds in the Tahitian legend proof of this contention. In the
Polynesian language _araea_, the "red earth" of the tale, is the
same as _vari_, and in Indonesia there were the words _fare_
or _pare_, in Malay _padi_ or _peri_, and in Malagasy _vari_, all
meaning rice. A Rarotongan legend relates that in Hawaiki two new
fruits were found, and the _vari_ discarded. These fruits were the
breadfruit and the horse-chestnut, neither of which is a native of

I related these stories of the _mei_ to Great Fern, who replied:
"_Aue!_ It may be. The old gods were great, and all the world is a
wonder. As for me, I am a Christian. The breadfruit ripens, and I
fill the _popoi_ pit."

Great Fern was my friend, and, as he said, a Christian, yet I fear
that he did not tell me all he knew of the ancient customs. There
was an innocence too innocent in his manner when he spoke of them,
like that of a child who would like one to believe that the cat ate
the jam. And on the night when the _popoi_ pits were filled, pressed
down and running over, when they had been covered with banana leaves
and weighed with heavy stones, and the season's task was finished,
something occurred that filled my mind with many vague surmises.

I had been awakened at midnight by the crashing fall of a cocoanut
on the iron roof above my head. Often during the rainy nights I was
startled by this sound of the incessantly falling nuts, that banged
and rattled like round shot over my head. But on this night, as I
composed myself to slumber again, my drowsy ears were uneasy with
another thing, less a sound than an almost noiseless, thrumming
vibration, faint, but disturbing.

I sat up in my Golden Bed, and listened. Exploding Eggs was gone
from his mat. The little house was silent and empty. Straining my
ears I heard it unmistakably through the rustling noises of the
forest and the dripping of rain from the eaves. It was the far, dim,
almost inaudible beating of a drum.

Old tales stirred my hair as I stood on my _paepae_ listening to it.
At times I thought it a fancy, again I heard it and knew that I
heard it. At last, wrapping a _pareu_ about me, I went down my trail
to the valley road. The sound was drowned here by the splashing
chuckle of the stream, but as I stood undecided in the pool of
darkness beneath a dripping banana I saw a dark figure slip silently
past me, going up toward the High Place. It was followed by another,
moving through the night like a denser shadow. I went back to my
cabin, scouted my urgent desire to shut and barricade the door, and
went to bed. After a long time I slept.

When I awoke next morning Exploding Eggs was preparing my breakfast
as usual, the sunlight streamed over breadfruit and palm, and the
night seemed a dream. But there were rumors in the village of a
strange dance held by the inhabitants of Nuka-hiva, on another island,
in celebration of the harvest of the _mei_. Weird observances were
hinted, rites participated in only by men who danced stark naked,
praising the old gods.

This was a custom of the old days, said Great Fern, with those
too-innocent eyes opened artlessly upon me. It has ever been the
ceremony of Thanks-giving to the ancient gods, for a bountiful
harvest, a propitiation, and a begging of their continued favor. As
for him, he was a Christian. Such rites were held no more in Atuona.

I asked no more questions. Thanks-giving to an omnipotent ruler for
the fruits of the harvest season is almost universal. We have put in
a proclamation and in church services and the slaughter of turkeys
what these children do in dancing, as did Saul of old.

The season's task completed, Great Fern and Apporo sat back well
content, having provided excellently for the future. Certain of
their neighbors, however, filled with ambition and spurred on by the
fact that there was plenty of _mei_ for all with no suspicion of
greediness incurred by excessive possessions, continued to work
until they had filled three pits. These men were regarded with
admiration and some envy, having gained great honor. "He has three
_popoi_ pits," they said, as we would speak of a man who owned a
superb jewel or a Velasquez.

[Illustration: A volunteer cocoanut grove, with trees of all ages]

[Illustration: Climbing for cocoanuts]

The grated breadfruit in the holes was called _ma_, and bore the
same relation to _popoi_ as dough bears to bread. When the _ma_ was
sufficiently soured Apporo opened the pit each morning and took out
enough for the day's provision, replacing the stones on the banana
leaves afterward. The intrusion of insects and lizards was not
considered to injure the flavor.

I often sat on her _paepae_ and watched her prepare the day's dinner.
Putting the rancid mass of _ma_ into a long wooden trough hollowed
out from a tree-trunk, she added water and mixed it into a paste of
the consistency of custard. This paste she wrapped in _purua_ leaves
and set to bake in a native oven of rocks that stood near the pit.

Apporo smoked cigarettes while it baked, perhaps to measure the time.
Marquesans mark off the minutes by cigarettes, saying, "I will do
so-and-so in three cigarettes," or, "It is two cigarettes from my
house to his."

When the cigarettes were consumed, or when her housewifely instinct
told Apporo that the dish was properly cooked, back it went into the
trough again, and was mashed with the _keatukipopoi_, the Phallic
pounder of stone known to all primitive peoples. A _pahake_, or
wooden bowl about eighteen inches in diameter, received it next, and
the last step of the process followed.

Taking a fistful of the mass, Apporo placed it in another _pahake_,
and kneaded it for a long time with her fingers, using oil from
crushed cocoanuts as a lubricant. And at last, proudly smiling, she
set before me a dish of _popoi kaoi_, the very best _popoi_ that can
possibly be made.

It is a dish to set before a sorcerer. I would as lief eat
bill-poster's paste a year old. It tastes like a sour, acid custard.
Yet white men learn to eat it, even to yearn for it. Captain Capriata,
of the schooner _Roberta_, which occasionally made port in Atuona Bay,
could digest little else. Give him a bowl of _popoi_ and a stewed or
roasted cat, and his Corsican heart warmed to the giver.

As bread or meat are to us, so was _popoi_ to my tawny friends. They
ate it every day, sometimes three or four times a day, and consumed
enormous quantities at a squatting. As the peasant of certain
districts of Europe depends on black bread and cheese, the poor
Irish on potatoes or stirabout, the Scotch on oatmeal, so the
Marquesan satisfies himself with _popoi_, and likes it really better
than anything else.

Many times, when unable to evade the hospitality of my neighbors, I
squatted with them about the brimming _pahake_ set on their _paepae_,
and dipped a finger with them, though they marveled at my lack of
appetite. In the silence considered proper to the serious business of
eating, each dipped index and second finger into the bowl, and
neatly conveyed a portion of the sticky mass to his mouth, returning
the fingers to the bowl cleansed of the last particle. Little
children, beginning to eat _popoi_ ere they were fairly weaned, put
their whole hands into the dish, and often the lean and mangy curs
that dragged out a wretched dog's existence about the _paepaes_ were
not deprived of their turn.

If one accept the germ theory, one may find in the _popoi_ bowl a
cause for the rapid spread of epidemics since the whites brought
disease to the islands.


A walk in the jungle; the old woman in the breadfruit tree; a night
in a native hut on the mountain.

Atuona Valley was dozing, as was its wont in the afternoons, when
the governor, accompanied by the guardian of the palace, each
carrying a shot-gun, invited me to go up the mountain to shoot
_kukus_ for dinner. The _kuku_ is a small green turtle-dove, very
common in the islands, and called also _u'u_ and _kukupa_. Under any
of these names the green-feathered morsel is excellent eating when
broiled or fried.

I did not take a gun, as, unless hunger demands it, I do not like to
kill. We started out together, climbing the trail in single file,
but the enthusiasm of the chase soon led my companions into the
deeper brush where the little doves lured them, and only the sharp
crack of an occasional shot wakening the echoes of the cliffs
disturbed my solitude.

The dark stillness of the deep valley, where the shadows of the
mountains fell upon groves of cocoanuts and miles of tangled bush,
recalled to me a cañon in New York City, in the center of the world
of finance, gloomy even at noon, the sky-touching buildings darkening
the street and the spirits of the dwellers like mountains. There,
when at an unsual moment I had come from the artificially-lighted
cage of a thousand slaves to money-getting, and found the street for
a second deserted, no figure of animal or human in its sombre sweep,
I had the same sensation of solitude and awe as in this jungle.
Suddenly a multitude of people had debouched from many points, and
shattered the impression.

But here, in Atuona Valley, the hoot of the owl, the _kouku_, which
in Malay is the ghost-bird, the _burong-hantu_, seemed to deepen the
silence. Does not that word _hantu_, meaning in Malay an evil spirit,
have some obscure connection with our American negro "hant," a
goblin or ghost? Certainly the bird's long and dismal "Hoo-oo-oo"
wailing through the shuddering forest evoked dim and chilling
memories of tales told by candlelight when I was a child in Maryland.

Here on the lower levels I was still among the cocoanut-groves. The
trail passed through acres of them, their tall gray columns rising
like cathedral arches eighty feet above a green mat of creeping vines.
Again it dipped into the woods, where one or two palms struggled
upward from a clutching jungle. Everywhere I saw the nuts tied by
their natural stems in clumps of forty or fifty and fastened to
limbs which had been cut and lashed between trees. These had been
gathered by climbers and left thus to be collected for drying into

Constantly the ripe nuts not yet gathered fell about me. These heavy

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